DemDaily: No Labels Launches Third Party Prospect

July 20, 2023

No Labels, a non-profit organization whose stated mission is to support centrism and bipartisanship, announced on Monday that they will present a candidate for a third party presidential ticket by Super Tuesday if it’s clear by then the choices will be former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden.

The announcement, which came in advance of No Labels' "Common Sense Town Hall" Monday night, sparked national debate and heightened fear among Democrats of a third-party candidate spoiling Biden’s reelection.

No Labels is a political organization whose stated mission is to support centrism and bipartisanship. Founded in 2010 by former Democratic consultant Nancy Jacobson, No Labels initially focused on creating a forum for communication between members of the two parties in Congress through meetings and events.

The group's efforts led to the 2017 creation of the Congressional Problem Solvers Caucus -- whose 64 members are equally divided between Democrats and Republicans -- with the goal of fostering bipartisan cooperation on key policy issues. Their initial National Strategic Agenda focused on four goals: job creation, balancing the budget, securing Medicare and Social Security, and energy independence.

No Labels, which has built a formidable national network and fundraising operation, supports the campaigns of Problem Caucus members.

Its Founding Board Chair is former Senator and Vice Presidential candidate Joe Lieberman (D), and its National Co-Chairs include former Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R), former North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory (R), and former NAACP CEO and current CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association Dr. Benjamin Chavis Jr. Operation HOPE founder, venture capitalist and author John Hope Bryant is national Vice Chair.

No Labels began exploring a potential independent presidential campaign in late 2021, conducting polling on voters' dissatisfaction with the two major parties. On Monday, Jacobson said the group is close to raising the $70 million it has budgeted to put a third-party presidential "unity ticket" on the ballot in every state. As a registered nonprofit, it is not required to disclose where its funding comes from.

No Labels, which stresses it not a political party, says it's "too early to know" whether a Biden-Trump rematch would lead the group to nominate a "unity ticket," but it is committed to facilitating the infrastructure for that ticket in preparation.

The group said it will rely on "rigorously analyzed polling data" to determine whether most Americans "want an alternative to the major party presidential nominees," and whether the group sees "a viable path" to winning election. Nevertheless, it has scheduled a nominating convention for next April in Dallas.

"There's been no decision about running a candidate...We will never run a third presidential ticket, a bipartisan ticket, if either or both of the parties begins to move back toward the center and commits itself to working with the other party to solve some of our problems." - Founding Board Chair Joe Lieberman, 7/19/23

Potential candidates include former No Labels Co-Chairs Hogan, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin (WV) and former Republican Governor (UT) and Ambassador Jon Huntsman, who headlined Monday's high-profile Town Hall. The first in a series profiling the No Labels policy agenda, the event was held at Saint Anselm College in the battleground early primary state of New Hampshire.

Manchin, a centrist Democrat who has not announced his reelection to the US Senate, is facing serious opposition from Republican Governor Jim Justice, who was leading the incumbent by 22% in May polling. Nevertheless, Manchin is likely the only Democrat who could keep the seat in the ruby red state -- which is critical to Democrats maintaining control of the US Senate.

Playing to both presidential and West Virginia voters, Manchin warned on Monday that the parties have “gone too far right and too far left” and reining them in "can't be done unless they're threatened...[by] that center-left, center-right, an independent Republican, an independent Democrat."

The prospect of a third party ticket has drawn criticism across the political spectrum over concerns it would ensure a second term for Trump. Center-left members of the Problem Solvers Caucus are reportedly in open revolt and a group of prominent current and former bipartisan lawmakers led by former House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and former Congressman Dick Gephardt (D) launched a Super PAC called Citizens to Save Our Republic focused on stopping No Labels' presidential ticket.

Recent polling shows that there is an opening for an alternative. A June 16-20, 2023 NBC News poll of registered voters showed 44% of respondents would consider a third-party/independent candidate if Trump and Biden were the major nominees. Among those surveyed, 45% of registered Democrats were open to a Biden alternative, compared to 34% who would consider an option besides Trump.

Modern electoral history backs up the demonstrable impact of third-party candidates as well.

In 1992, Independent (later Reform Party) candidate and billionaire Ross Perot's idioscyncratic platform attracted 8% -- enough to deny incumbent George H.W. Bush a second term and guarantee the White House for Bill Clinton.

In 2000, Green Party candidate Ralph Nader received almost 3% of the national popular vote, arguably siphoning off enough votes, most notably in Florida, to ulimately cost Democrat Al Gore the election against Republican George W. Bush.

In 2016, the national total for third-party candidates and write-ins was well over 5%. Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson received over four million votes nationwide, while Green Party candidate Jill Stein received over one million.

Claims that No Labels violated the electoral process to gain ballot access have already resulted in a cease-and-desist letter from Maine's Secretary of State and a lawsuit filed by the Arizona Democratic Party.

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Kimberly Scott

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Resources: No Labels, Politico, Washington Post, New York Times, NBC, NPR

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